Being a successful combat athlete means making lifestyle changes. In many ways this can be a harder task in itself than training and competing. Imagine the average fighter that has to diet and cut weight to compete on a regular basis. For all us competitors this is reality, one that affects us and everyone around us. We get grumpy and miserable, and all our loved ones have to deal with our alter personality during these cuts. But what if there was a lifestyle that kept you healthy, gave you strength and energy to train hard, and kept you lean enough to not cut a ton of weight when getting ready to compete? I know, I know, I can already hear you all saying ‘What are you nuts? That’s not funny, stop playing with us!’ Actually, its very funny, almost hilarious, at least when talking to big time comedian and fighter Jamie Kilstein about the vegan lifestyle and its perfect fit in the combat sports community.
Jamie is a comedian who tours the world doing standup shows, writes and has written for major television shows, and is one of the hosts on the hit political radio show Citizen Radio. What many people may not know is he has also been a martial artist for much of his life. He has trained Jeet Kune Do, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Kali, and Muay Thai to name a few. Recently he placed at the 2012 IBJJF World Championships out in California at the blue belt level. Jaime has also fought Thai fights and has dabbled with training MMA. But one thing that truly defines Jamie is the fact that he has accomplished all this stuff while keeping a vegan diet, something he is extremely proud of and attributes much of his success to.
Take a look at the interview and see what Jamie has to say about it:
MMW: What was your deciding factor in choosing the vegan lifestyle? Was it easy? Any road blocks?
JK: I was vegetarian for a long time due to liking animals, sooooo I didn’t want to eat dead versions of them. However, since I was also a stoner I was crazy unhealthy, and knew that needed change. I was the guy that was like ‘Hey, I’m a vegetarian I’m healthier than you, now hand me my 18th slice of pizza please!’ Then, like with any major life change I met a girl (now my wife) who was vegan and I wanted to impress her. I knew nothing about the health benefits, I didn’t know about how animals get tortured to produce our dairy, or how the cows that couldn’t produce milk would be turned into veal etc. I just wanted to impress a girl. Since I didn’t know why I was doing it at first I would go on the road away from my wife and it was like a scene from Behind the Music, except instead of a drug relapse it was a cheese overdose. I would call Allison (my wife) and be like ‘I messed up baby!’ and I’d be laid out surrounded by stuffed crust pan pizza. Then once I did the research and WANTED to be vegan it was way easier. Then after 10 years of being totally inactive in competition I decided to start fighting again at the age of 28. So picture it, I’m starting to fight again and I’m going vegan at the same time. I’m working out a lot and now I’m actually starting to FEEL the difference, and once that happened there was no going back!
MMW: How has being a vegan impacted your ability to train in combat sports? Also, how has it influenced and impacted your life outside of that?
JK: With combat sports it’s definitely cardio, cardio, cardio, recovery, recovery, recovery. I’ve always been a little guy. I was never going to be stronger than a lot of other athletes but since going vegan I found that I could easily train harder and be faster than them. What’s even better is that by the time I’m done my workout and drink my post training vegan shake and make it down to the lobby of the gym I already feel recharged and 100%. With other aspects of my life it gives me something to stand for. Every time I see an animal, whether it’s my cat sitting on my lap or baby pig running up to my feet, I know I’m helping them. Going vegan is one of the only ways to put your money where your mouth is! You can tweet about causes all you want, but if you tweet that you love animals and then you go and eat them, or that you want to stop global warming but you support factory farms then you’re totally full of it!
MMW: What would be the greatest thing gained or most impacting advantage in your opinion that an athlete can have by being vegan?
JK: Cardio and Recovery!
MMW: Are there any drawbacks and if so what are they and are there ways to combat them and overcome those obstacles?
JK: If I wasn’t vegan I’d be small, slow, and fat. So for me, there have been no negatives. I have also done a lot of research, eat mainly whole foods (Not counting my cheat days with my sweet sweet vegan ice cream), and keep everything balanced. If you are a vegan and only eat french fries and your own tears then you really don’t get the benefits.
MMW: You placed at a major tournament this past year at your current belt, blue belt. What was your diet like leading up to the competition and do you attribute part of that success to the diet you keep, which allows you to push your limits during training and prepping?
JK: 100%! My poor coach would come to training STARVING everyday, I felt so bad. I was eating 6 times a day and training as hard as I competed. With that said it was my second competition at that level, and the first one that I tried a weight cut for…I should have won my division!
MMW: What are some of your favorite things to eat?
JK: I love quinoa pasta, tempeh bacon, anything with avocado or hummus. Anything a non-vegan eats there is a vegan version! When I’m on cheat days I’m a sucker for bagels and tofu cream cheese!
MMW: How do vegans cut weight? Most athletes starve themselves to cut or limit certain foods. The clean diets vegans tend to keep seem to almost negate the need to make hard cuts. What’s your opinion on this?
JK: The Worlds where I placed was the first time I cut and I actually upped my calories! I just timed stuff well and cut salt and my vegan cheese. Super easy!
MMW: When you travel places to train, compete, or on the road for comedy shows, how do you prepare to eat? Is it hard for you to find vegan restaurants when you’re far from home base, or do you just find a Whole Foods and cook your own stuff? Is there an app for that?!
JK: There are actually tons of apps for that!! I like to support local vegan places, plus they’re usually run by a bunch of tattooed kids like me! I’ve found amazing vegan places everywhere! Some of my favs are in places you wouldn’t expect, like Texas and Iowa! If there aren’t any good spots near by then I do what any athlete does vegan or not; I carry lara bars, nuts, fruit, Vega protein powder, then hit a good grocery store and make sure I have a fridge at the hotel! Also any Japanese, Thai, Chinese or Indian place I’ve gone normally has vegan options, or at least enough stuff to mix and match my own vegan meal. So it’s easy to eat vegan if you know what to look for.
MMW: I know you’re dedicated to the cause, so explain your tofu tattoo.
JK: Ha! Well that is my non tattoo. It’s a block of tofu with a sword and the words ‘Tofu Warrior’. People go “oh that’s cute”, but they don’t realize the danger lurking, because on my entire left arm is a sleeve of animals breaking out of a farm and killing everyone LOL!
MMW: You’re also a big time comedian. How does being a vegan combat athlete influence, help, or impact that?
JK: Well being a fighter makes you more confident with hecklers lol. At least I know I can run faster than them! Other than that it’s nice to be able to challenge people’s beliefs and make them thing and laugh about something they had never thought about before. I never try to be preachy though. I don’t need to make people hate vegans any more than they already do! But I also make sure not to pull any punches!
MMW: Do you think being vegan makes you funnier?
JK: At first I was going to say no, but since going vegan I have so much more energy! Before being vegan I’d be drunk or sleeping all day so I’d never get to write… so yea, I guess it has made me funnier!
MMW: What advice can you give to people debating the idea of going vegan and what would you say to fighters or Jits players who are on the fence about it?
JK: For fighters I have two words…DIAZ BROTHERS! Also, just try it out, you will feel so much cleaner and start to outwork people in the gym that you didn’t think you could. The guys I train with are monsters and 10 years younger than me. NO WAY would I keep up with them otherwise. And for everyone, just know that you CAN do it! I was eating taco bell every day and did it. You don’t only have to eat salads; you aren’t hungry all the time. I’ve actually had BETTER and more creative food since going vegan. Just start Googling food you like and type vegan before it and you will see a healthy world you didn’t know existed!
MMW: Can you give us one of your favorite vegan recipes?
JK: I love quinoa spaghetti cooked up with broccoli, roasted pine nuts, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and mozzarella daiya cheese!